Madam Mao breathed a sigh of relief and said, “Thank you very much! Even the famous chef of Zhenxiu Restaurant praised you for your great talent in cooking. So you will definitely be able to make a delicious duck dish. You can experiment with these two ducks first. If it’s not enough, Auntie can bring more over. Xiaocao, I’ll leave this matter in your hands then!”
“Auntie, with our families’ relationship, there’s no need to be so courteous. But, let’s make things clear first. If it’s successful, the recipe belongs to me. As for the sales of your family’s ducks, I can help recommend them to Qian Xiaoduo.” Yu Xiaocao made things clear beforehand.
Madam Mao wasn’t someone unreasonable, so she repeatedly nodded her head, “Yes, of course! It should be so! Auntie is already very grateful that you’re willing to help me sell my family’s ducks. Would I still be considered a human, if I were to covet the recipe that you came up with?”
After sending away Madam Mao, who was expressing her gratitude over and over again, Yu Xiaocao entered the house. When faced with a room full of ‘interrogating’ eyes, she honestly gave a brief explanation of the purpose of Madam Mao’s visit.
After hearing that, Madam Liu sighed and said, “As fellow villagers, even if they didn’t bring gifts over, we would also help them out if they had encountered difficulties. But, Cao’er, can you really come up with a dish that uses duck as the main ingredient?”
Yu Hai stopped her and said, “Muyun, don’t give the child pressure! Our Cao’er isn’t a short-sighted person. If she didn’t have any ideas at all, she wouldn’t have easily accepted those ducks and duck eggs!”
Xiaolian laughed and said, “Youngest Sister, have a good sleep tonight. Perhaps someone will teach you how to prepare the ducks and duck eggs in your dreams!”
The whole family laughed and chatted together, and from time to time, a burst of cheerful and sweet laughter could be heard.
In the end, the head of the family, Yu Hai, ordered, “Everyone, quickly go to bed! Spring plowing will begin tomorrow. Xiaocao, take Little Gray when you go to the wharf tomorrow morning. Your mother, Xiaolian, and I will go plow the three plots of sandy land!
“Father, are we still planting sweet potatoes in the fields?” Yu Xiaocao asked casually.
Yu Hai stroked her soft hair and replied in a gentle voice, “What else would we plant other than sweet potatoes? Other crops can’t produce much on sandy soil!”
Yu Xiaocao abruptly asked, “Sandy soil is the best place to grow watermelons. Father, can we somehow get some watermelon seeds?”
“Watermelon? Never heard of it. How about… tomorrow I’ll go to the grain store in town and ask?” Yu Hai trusted his daughter unconditionally. Even if it was something he had never heard of before, he would still do his best to help his daughter achieve what she wanted.
Yu Xiaocao didn’t hold much hope. Watermelon wasn’t a grain, so why would the grain store have the seeds?
The rest of the night quietly passed by. The next day, when the first light of the day shone on the seedlings in the garden, all the members of the Yu Family had already gotten up. Yu Xiaocao wanted to wait for Qian Xiaoduo, and then ask him to send a message to Third Young Master Zhou. So, it was still Xiaolian who went to the docks. Third Young Master Zhou was someone who had even been to the capital so he must be experienced and knowledgeable, and thus he should know what a watermelon was. It would be even better if he could help her buy some watermelon seeds.
Yu Hai thought that it wasn’t a good idea for no one to be home since there would be people coming to buy vegetables later, so he left his youngest daughter at home. (Yu Hang: Am I not a person?)
Shortly afterwards, Madam Fang came over with her two daughters. She entered the gates and asked, “Are you guys still harvesting the crops in the backyard today?”
“Auntie Zhou, I feel so apologetic to see you coming over to help every day!” Yu Xiaocao expressed her gratitude in a very polite manner.
“Xiaocao, you’re being too courteous! It’s only right for neighbors to help each other out. If it hadn’t been for you, we wouldn’t have been able to sell our family’s chickens. There are only a few hens and chicks at home now, so we don’t have much work to do. Since we’re so free, we might as well come over to see if there’s anything we can help out with!” Madam Fang was a very close friend of Madam Liu. So Xiaocao didn’t know what to say anymore when she spoke in the manner of ‘no need to treat one family as two’.
Zhou Linglong smiled quietly, picked up the bamboo basket in the yard, and went to the rear courtyard. The younger sister, Zhou Shanhu, joked, “Xiaocao, if you feel bad about it, you just need to send us a bowl whenever you make delicious food in the future!”
The little lass still remembered the delicious taste of the ‘tofu and chicken blood soup’ that she ate last time. She felt that even her mother’s best dish, stewed meat, wasn’t as good as that dish, which was made of simple and crude ingredients. She was also a lurking little glutton.
Just as they were speaking, Madam Mao also came. Her bright and clear voice could be heard even before she had entered the courtyard, “I’m not late, am I? Are you guys about to begin gathering the vegetables?”
“Madam Mao? Why are you here?” Madam Fang asked curiously. Madam Mao had never taken the initiative to help others. Was the sun rising from the west?
Madam Mao rolled her eyes at her and said, “What? You’re allowed to come help, but I’m not? We’re all neighbors, so why can’t I come over to help?”
Madam Fang knew her speaking style, so she continued to speak in a gentle manner, “I didn’t mean it that way. You have a lot of things to take care of at home, so Muyun wouldn’t mind even if you don’t come over.”
“Alright, alright! Hurry up and work!” Madam Mao readily picked up a bamboo basket and followed the Zhou sisters to the backyard.
Seeing the satisfying-looking vegetables, Madam Mao couldn’t help but exclaim, “Xiaocao, your family really knows how to grow vegetables. Just look at those greens, how gratifying! Our family planted our fields around the same time as yours, and also used straw thatches to keep the crops warm, but it still doesn’t look as good as your family’s! Last time it was cold during late spring, we didn’t manage to cover the fields with straw thatches, so a lot of the crops quickly froze to death. Many of the vegetables still haven’t gotten better yet.”
“I know, right?! Our family’s vegetables also don’t look as good as Muyun’s family’s! Muyun has always been good at tending the fields even before she got married!” Madam Fang agreed with her as she continued to pluck cucumbers from their vines. The fresh and juicy cucumbers exuded an attractive scent that made them seem refreshing with just a look.
Yu Xiaocao smiled faintly, squatted down, and then placed the eggplants she plucked into the basket. The air was good at the foot of the mountain, and the eggplants were clean and fresh. There was no need to wash them with water at all.
Zhou Shanhu picked a tomato that had ripened early, and wondered, “What is this? A persimmon? But don’t persimmons grow on trees?”
Yu Xiaocao explained to her in a soft voice, “It looks like a persimmon, but it’s not. It’s called ‘tomato’ and was exported here from a foreign land. It’s also called wolf peach. Try it. It’s sweet and sour, and rather tasty!”
She originally thought that tomatoes had not been introduced into China at this time, and had just nonchalantly mentioned it to Third Young Master Zhou. But she hadn’t expected that Third Young Master would actually get the seeds for her. As a result of planting them a little too late, only a few ripe tomatoes could be found from time to time.
“Wolf peach? So this is what a wolf peach looks like!” Zhou Shanhu’s father and older brother were street vendors, so they were naturally more knowledgeable than the ordinary folks.
Upon hearing this, Zhou Linglong snatched the tomato from her younger sister’s hands and said to Xiaocao, “My father said that wolf peach is poisonous, and rich families only admire it as an ornament. Why is your family growing this?”
Yu Xiaocao found another ripe tomato, wiped it with her sleeves, and then disregarded the Zhou’s sisters’ hindrance and took a big bite. The sweet juice immediately filled her mouth. Tomatoes watered by the mystic-stone water tasted even better than the ones she ate in her past life. They could be just be eaten as fruits.
“It’s fine!” When faced with the Zhou sisters’ terrified gazes, Xiaocao smiled and revealed her spotlessly white and neat teeth. She said, “Zhenxiu Restaurant’s Third Young Master Zhou said that ripe tomatoes aren’t poisonous. Moreover, Zhenxiu Restaurant also uses tomatoes in their dishes!”
She used Third Young Master Zhou to increase the credibility of her words. She didn’t know whether the people of this time period had discovered the edibility of tomatoes or not. However, it would definitely be confirmed in the future.
“Is it really edible?” After hearing Xiaocao’s words, Zhou Shanhu had already believed her for the most part. Seeing that Xiaocao was still fine after eating an entire wolf peach, the Zhou sisters finally believed that wolf peaches were edible.
After eating the sweet tomato, Yu Xiaocao was full of strength and continued to bend down to pick eggplants. When she lifted her head, she saw that the Zhou sisters’ were still studying the tomato. So she said, “Tomatoes are really delicious. You guys will know after tasting it.”
“No need. We’re just wondering why there would be a rumor that such a beautiful tomato is poisonous. It’s really strange! You guys still need to sell these tomatoes!” Zhou Shanhu had a slightly more lively personality, but she wasn’t a greedy person.
Yu Xiaocao straightened her waist and walked around the tomato field. She found several tomatoes that had ripened early and stuffed one into each of their hands, and then gave one to Madam Fang and Madam Mao respectively. She said, “There’s only a few, so we can’t really sell them anyways! Come on, try it! Let me know what price we should sell them for.”
After declining several times, they decided not to be so courteous anymore when they heard what she said. Zhou Shanhu eagerly stuffed the tomato into her mouth and took a big bite. The red juice flowed down the corner of her mouth, so she hastily licked it back and said, “So sweet! It’s really tasty!! It’s even better than a lot of the fruits that I have eaten! Xiaocao, I think you can just sell these tomatoes as fruits!”
Zhou Linglong acted in much more reserved manner. She copied how Xiaocao ate it earlier by taking a small bite first, and then she softly sucked it. The tomato juice inside was sweet and sour, and it tasted very good. She nodded her head in agreement with her younger sister’s words. Madam Mao and Madam Fang were also full of praises.
“Xiaocao, it seems like someone is knocking on your family’s gates!” Zhou Shanhu had finished eating her tomato and was now enviously staring at her older sister, as if she was ‘Zhu Bajie  eating a ginseng fruit’. She had good ears, and heard a knocking sound coming from the front gates.
After experiencing Madam Zhang and her daughter-in-law’s disturbance last time, the Yu Family would lock all the doors when there was no one in the front yard.
Yu Xiaocao quickly ran to the front yard, while still holding onto two tomatoes. As soon as she got out of the backyard, she saw her older brother holding onto the door and walking out carefully. He was obviously trying to walk outside.
“Older Brother! Stop causing trouble!! It takes a hundred days to fully recover from serious injuries. The doctor said you will need to rest for at least three months before you can get out of bed. Quickly lie down on the recliner. I’ll open the door!!” Yu Xiaocao stuffed the tomatoes into her older brother’s hands and helped him lie down on the recliner.
Yu Hang sighed helplessly, “I feel that my ribs are almost healed. I don’t feel much pain as long as I don’t make vigorous movements… ow!”
“It hurts, right? Pain means that the bones haven’t recovered yet! Be obedient and rest!!” Yu Xiaocao lightly pushed his chest. She glared at him when she saw him reveal a painful expression.
Yu Hang looked at the back view of Xiaocao, who went to open the door, and muttered, “Little steward! Can’t believe you would actually do that…”
 Zhu Bajie (猪八戒) - one of the main characters in Journey to the West, who has pig-like characteristicsPrevious Chapter Next Chapter
It's good to see that they have nice neighbors